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The Fear and Uncomfortable Reality of Buying Art: Social Pressure and the Illusion of Inadequacy

Art has the remarkable ability to evoke emotions, provoke thought, and inspire individuals. It can be a powerful tool for self-expression and a mirror reflecting society's deepest fears, desires, and aspirations. Yet, despite its profound impact on our lives, many people find buying art to be a daunting and uncomfortable experience. In this article, we will explore why art is often perceived as scary to purchase, examining the role of social pressure, the illusion of inadequacy, and the belief that beauty is not meant for everyone.

The High Stakes of Art Acquisition

Art is often perceived as an investment, both financially and emotionally. When buying art, there is a palpable sense of risk involved. This fear is fueled by the perception that one needs to be an expert to make the right choices. According to the renowned art dealer Larry Gagosian, "People are afraid they'll make a mistake." The fear of making an error can paralyze potential art buyers, preventing them from engaging with the art world.

Social Pressure and the "Right" Choices

Social pressure plays a significant role in the uneasiness surrounding art acquisition. Art can be seen as a status symbol, and individuals often feel the need to make "correct" choices to impress others. This pressure stems from societal expectations and a desire to fit into a certain image or lifestyle. Art historian Griselda Pollock points out that "art is seen as a signifier of cultural and social capital." This perception can make buying art seem like an exclusive club with stringent rules that must be adhered to.

The Illusion of Inadequacy

One of the most significant factors contributing to the discomfort of buying art is the illusion of inadequacy. Many individuals believe that they lack the necessary knowledge or taste to appreciate and select art. This belief can be perpetuated by the art world itself, which sometimes promotes an elitist attitude. Art critic Jonathan Jones highlights this issue, stating, "Art galleries can sometimes be forbidding places that can make us feel uneducated, ignorant, or just plain stupid." This intimidation factor can make potential buyers feel unworthy or unqualified to engage with the art world.

The Belief That Beauty Is Not Meant for Everyone

Another underlying issue is the notion that beauty in art is exclusive and reserved for a select few. This belief can stem from a narrow definition of beauty perpetuated by traditional art standards. Beauty is subjective and diverse, yet some individuals may feel excluded from the art world if they do not conform to the conventional ideals of beauty. Art educator Emily Jones argues that "art can often be presented as something that belongs to an exclusive elite who knows how to 'appreciate' it." This perception can create a barrier for people who do not see themselves as part of that elite. Art, despite its power to inspire and connect us, can be an intimidating realm for many people to enter. Social pressure, the illusion of inadequacy, and the belief that beauty is exclusive all contribute to the fear and discomfort associated with buying art. It is essential to challenge these perceptions and recognize that art is a diverse and inclusive space meant for everyone to enjoy and engage with. By dismantling these barriers, we can create a more inclusive and welcoming art world where individuals feel empowered to explore, appreciate, and collect art that resonates with them, without fear or discomfort.


  1. Gagosian, Larry. "Why People Are Afraid to Buy Art." WSJ. Retrieved from

  2. Pollock, Griselda. "What's Wrong with Art History?" Art History 38, no. 1 (2015): 1-17.

  3. Jones, Jonathan. "Art Galleries Are Bad for Art." The Guardian. Retrieved from

  4. Jones, Emily. "The Exclusivity of Art: How to Break Down Barriers." The Guardian. Retrieved from

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